T+L Editors' Favorite Road Trips
It’s an annual summer ritual: piling three kids and one giant golden doodle into the car for the drive to Maine, stopping for lobster rolls and boxes of blueberries. See the lighthouse at Dyce Head? Almost there.
For one T+L editor, that’s the power of a road trip, with its traditions, thrill of anticipation, and comforting sense of the familiar. The appeal for others lies in setting out for the unknown, with the possibility of discovery and (mis)adventure around the next bend. After all, when the urge to travel strikes, hitting the road is the most spontaneous way to get your fix. Even a day trip can refresh your perspective.
While routes through North Carolina and Hawaii left a big impression on T+L staff, so did the chance to get behind the wheel while abroad. It was a road trip from Cairo through the desert—past wild camels—that led another T+L editor to the most incredible place she’s stayed yet, a Berber-style eco-lodge by the Great Sand Sea.
Read on for more memorable road trip stories, and share your favorites in the comments below.
We spent a day exploring Kauai’s incredible topography from our open-air Jeep. Following the Kuhio Highway from Lihue, on the eastern shore, we drove counterclockwise along the island’s circumference, stopping along the way for waterfalls ('Opaeka'a Falls, near Wailua), smoothies (get the Taste of Hawaii—a blend of papaya, mango, banana, and other tropical flavors—at Moloa'a Sunrise Juice Bar, in Anahola), and beaches (Pali Ke Kua, a.k.a Hideaways, accessible via steep, slippery path just below the St. Regis Princeville resort).
Everywhere were reminders that Mother Nature runs this island: flooded roads, the smell of exotic fruits, stray chickens getting fat on the lush vegetation, and scary signs warning us that some beaches, while peaceful-looking, were too dangerous for swimming. One such highlight: the gorgeous but treacherous Queen’s Bath, on the North Shore. It’s a series of natural pools on a lava rock shelf that juts into the ocean and is often pummeled with powerful waves. Strange, beautiful, eye-opening, and humbling—just like Kauai itself.
—Peter J. Frank, director of editorial product development
A few years ago my husband and I drove from Cairo via Alexandria (where we stopped to see the incredible new library) into the Western Desert to Siwa, an oasis renowned for its delicious dates, not far from the Libyan border. We passed wild camels en route to the most incredible place I’ve ever stayed, Adrère Amellal. The Berber-style eco-lodge, built out of rock salt and clay, had no electricity. At night, pathways magically appeared by lantern formation, and beeswax candles lighted our room. We were hundreds of miles from civilization on the edge of the Great Sand Sea. I’d never seen a clearer sky. It was crazy romantic.
—Adrien Glover, deputy digital editor
Every summer my husband, three kids, our giant golden doodle, Max, and I make our annual pilgrimage from New York to Maine. Once we hit the coast, most of our favorite pit stops involve food: lobster rolls and fried clams at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth; pastries and bread at the Standard Baking Company near the waterfront in Portland; a quick shopping fix (and ice cream) in Freeport.
But when we hit Route 3 near Belfast, something changes. The windows go down. We pass the big elephant outside Perry’s Nut House, motels with No Vacancy signs, flea markets, a boatyard, a dilapidated barn, a shiny spiral staircase leading up to the sky from a parking lot. The road stretches all the way to Bucksport, Ellsworth, Mount Desert Island, and points beyond. We stop for quarts of small, juicy blueberries in lime green cardboard boxes at a stand by the side of the road. There is talk of blueberry pie, blueberry buckle, blueberry ice cream.
Back on the road, the cool air rushes in. The new bridge has gone up by Fort Knox right next to the old one. Can you still hold your breath all the way across? On the other side, we gas up. The Harleys roar past. Lobster for Sale, a sign says. It won’t be long now. A right turn off the main drag. Eighteen miles in to the rocky shores of Castine and Penobscot Bay, the lighthouse at Dyce Head, the back shore for a heart-pounding swim, fishing and onion rings at The Breeze by the town dock overlooking the harbor, cookies at Bah’s Bake House, a visit to the blacksmith at the Wilson Museum, dinner at Stella’s. Almost there.
—Jennifer Barr, executive editor/content strategist
On a December road trip through Portugal with my then-boyfriend, we arrived in the town of Tomar in the evening, after visiting its amazing castle/monastery, the Convento de Cristo. (The raised altar in the middle of the church was constructed so that the Knights Templar could take communion without dismounting from their horses!) Through sign language and a sketched map, a hotel desk clerk tried to show us where we could park in the mostly car-free town, but we kept circling in the dark for what seemed like an hour without seeing the one road that was open to traffic. Finally Thom decided that one narrow street without a chain across it must be the one, so he turned off the busy road. Too late, we realized that there was no chain because there were about five or six unseen steps down from the road we were on to the street. Our rental car bounced and jolted down the steps as holiday shoppers a half-block away grabbed their children and scattered. We were mortified, of course, and happy that we could escape into shadows after we claimed an excellent parking space.
—Ann Shields, senior digital editor
Last Memorial Day weekend, my friends and I retreated from the city to the Catskills. Few things went according to plan. I wimped out on a hike, received a death stare when asking for directions at a Boy Scout camp, and was baffled by New York driving customs. For example: you must exit the highway to stay on; a highway can look exactly like a street; and if a sign says something is near, it’s really 100 miles away. Still, the unexpected details made the trip memorable. We got a steal on a cozy retro-chic cabin, bonded over late-night Scrabble, and were welcomed by the caretaker (who’s also the town supervisor!) and local shopkeepers.
—Jessica Su, senior online producer
Denver to New York City
I learned about The Wave when I moved from Denver to New York City in the ’90s. I had too much stuff for my small car, but not enough for a full trailer, so I rented a U-Haul car-top carrier, perhaps the dorkiest-looking moving container in existence. Leaving Denver with the U-Haul firmly affixed, my black Mazda did look like it had sprouted an enormous orange-and-silver pimple, but I didn’t think much of it.
I hadn’t even made it out of Colorado when I first got The Wave—complete with an empathetic nod—from a fellow car-top carrier-er as he passed. It was puzzling. Then there was another. And another.
Suddenly it dawned on me: I had unwittingly become a member of a drive-of-shame club, one whose entry simply required adorning my car with a hideous oversize suitcase. Like an embarrassing uniform, the fixture made us all look silly, and we all knew it. Yet it was this awkwardness that created moments, however fleeting, for interstate strangers to connect on lonely highways.
I was on a two-lane road near South Dakota’s Badlands when I spied another orange-banded car-topper, as conspicuous as a high beam, fast approaching. I took my hand off the wheel and initiated The Wave; the other driver looked a little surprised, but quickly realized what we had in common, and waved back.
—Rich Beattie, executive digital editor
A few years ago I went on a road trip from New York to Memphis (and got lost only once during those 1,000 miles or so). Besides enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Shenandoah Valley and two-stepping at Robert’s Western World in Nashville, the highlight of the trip was eating fried chicken three times—in just five days on the road. My first taste of buttermilk-battered goodness was at the Southern Kitchen, a local joint recommended by a friend of a friend, off of I-81 in New Market, VA. It was later followed by a kick of cayenne at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, and slip-right-off-the-bone meat at the original Gus’s Fried Chicken outside of Memphis.
—Lyndsey Matthews, assistant digital editor
By traditional standards, my favorite American road trip isn’t a “road trip” at all—just a two-hour stretch of road between Portland and The Dalles: the Historic Columbia River Highway. Along the way, you’ll pass 620-foot Multnomah Falls and the cliff-top town of Hood River (stop for lunch of fresh-caught salmon at 3 Rivers Grill). My favorite part, though, is watching the Columbia River, that rollicking cradle of Portland’s humanity, unfurl. Near Portland it’s framed by towering evergreen forests, but by the time you get to The Dalles, ocher grasslands stretch as far as the eye can see, a Woody Guthrie song sprung to life.
—Kathryn O’Shea-Evans, associate editor
My last just-for-fun road trip was along Australia’s Great Ocean Road, which delivers on everything that everyone promises it will: stops for gorgeous beaches, striking limestone formations, ancient rainforest trails, history, lighthouses...and koalas! We learned on day one who in our car could (and couldn’t) navigate the ultra-curvy coastal route without making the other passengers turn green.
—Skye Senterfeit, assistant photo editor
Growing up without a car in Manhattan didn’t exactly prepare me to be a driver of epic road-trip proportions. But family summer vacations out west instilled the appeal. And before I had my license, I was already mapping out an elaborate cross-country road trip with my high school best friend. While that itinerary has yet to be driven, one of my early travel assignments was a road trip through western North Carolina. I brought my dad along—for backup and because it was Father’s Day. We started in Asheville, where a stop for beers at Jack of the Wood luckily coincided with a performance by Sons of Ralph, a local institution of a bluegrass-Cajun-rock band headed by Ralph Lewis, then 81.
There were plenty of curves ahead, namely along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which tested my skills as I drove into the sunset, the light and shade flickering distractingly from one turn to the next. We would brake for waterfalls, barbecue, and sights (historic or kitschy). And we kept a count of the state license plates we spotted on the way through Cherokee, Blowing Rock, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The most peaceful, transporting stretch was along U.S. 19 through Maggie Valley, with no reception and often no other cars in view—an unfurling rural landscape of covered bridges, clapboard churches, and crows soaring over cornfields.
—Kate Appleton, senior digital editor
Last summer, my fiancé and I took a road trip from Los Angeles up the coast of California, with stops in Big Sur, Carmel Valley, San Francisco, and Calistoga. On a hike through Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, in Carmel, we came upon a grazing baby deer—but rather than run away at our approach, the animal just went about its business. It was amazing to stand just a few feet away and watch it (and of course, take a few photos).
—Brooke Porter, associate editor
In an effort to escape from the oppressive humidity of the Tokyo summer, a few fellow exchange students and I flew to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Setting out from Sendai we bussed it to Hakodate, a fishing port at the southern tip of the island. One (much too early) morning—after watching fishermen bring in the day’s catch and gorging ourselves on raw fish—we rented bikes and set out into the wild. We headed north without a clear goal, simply following the highway, passing vast fields of sweet potatoes and flowers. We turned in at small roadside inns and hostels for the night. After months beneath the crammed Tokyo skyline, it was a pleasure to have only blue sky above us, with tufts of white smoke rising from the many small volcanoes along the vast mountain ranges.
The lingering memories of this road trip are many: spending a rain-soaked afternoon in an abandoned bus stop in the middle of nowhere; pushing our bikes up a mountainside; our toes poking through holes in our sneakers; sharing a roadside meal with heavily pierced and tattooed young Japanese punks; and discovering my favorite German children’s book in the reading alcove of a small café. As it turned out, the owner of the café and adjacent organic farm was a fellow German, an expat who had moved to Hokkaido in the ’70s. Small world, indeed.
—Sebastian Girner, researcher
While I’ve been to Boston plenty of times, each trip is an adventure. My usual itinerary consists of collegiate reunions in Back Bay or culinary crawls in Cambridge. This spring, I was able to escape downtown and appreciate New England’s springtime. My Saturday was spent hiking a short (but strenuous!) trail in Norfolk County’s Blue Hills Reservation. At the top, the familiar Boston skyline peeked through budding trees. A nature walk through the Arnold Arboretum in Forest Hills made up Sunday, as my friends and I reminisced about our days at UMass Amherst.
—Maria Pedone, digital intern
Long Island, NY
Driving from New York City to Orient Point, NY, makes a great road trip that can be done in a day. The first leg is mostly the Long Island Expressway—not very picturesque, but it’s direct. By the time you reach Exit 70, the scrub pine landscape takes over and you’re suddenly breathing briny sea air. Travel north to South Avenue/Route 48, or what the locals call the North Road, heading east, and stay on this road until the end. The scenery takes you back in time, with vineyards, farm and garden stands, horse barns and stables, and even a roadside table or two, with fresh eggs and $5 bundles of fireplace wood. Be sure to stop for ears of roasted corn on the cob (go for the butter-drenched version, as life is short), and a sachet or bouquet at the lavender farm in East Marion, before a freshly caught seafood dinner. Watch the sunset and the ferries depart for Connecticut, and then head back to the city feeling renewed.
—Elizabeth Boyle, photo editor